John Davies

John Davies is an Australian born classical singer, concert artist and recording artist[1] whose large and versatile baritone voice is known for its dark, bronzy depth and its bright and penetrating upper register[2]. While the voice has been described as overwhelmingly dramatic[3], it has the ease and flexibility of lighter coloratura voices which allows for legitimate performance of the bel canto repertoire.

Contents

1. Biography and career

1.1 Early years
1.2 1980’s – 1990’s
1.3 2000’s – present

2. Recordings
3. Writings
4. Awards
5. References

Early Years

Growing up in a household where there was non-stop music, either radio or records, pop or classical, John Davies was naturally inclined towards an understanding of music. At age 7 he invented his own way of writing music, which he discovered was much more complicated than conventional musical notation when he commenced learning music at age 9 from his older brother, Peter. In the 6th grade he was selected along with two other students from grade school, Gary Webster and Carol Middleton, to be a soloist, singing in front of a large choir in large shopping malls in Australia similar to Glendale Galleria or Americana.

He commenced formal music training on the clarinet, studying with Gary Matheson of the Sydney Symphony Orchestra. In the 10th Grade (sophomore year) he started what was to become and 8-piece band which played covers. In the 11th Grade, the band won a contract to play music for TV shows produced by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation – ABC. The band lasted through the first year of college at which time it split up. Davies had commenced working freelance with a number of bands which kept him working sometimes five nights a week. He also worked in orchestras for Broadway Musicals.

He had studied theory and composition and continued this into college where he received high distinction grades in harmony and composition, even though he was a foreign languages and educational psychology major. At the request of John (Jack) Gordon[4], he composed a series of suites for carillon to be performed on carillons in Sydney and the national capital, Canberra. He was also a member of the madrigal society and it was here that he decided that he should at least attempt to be a singer.

After one year of vocal training, he started to get experience in student and amateur productions of operas, oratorios, operettas and musical comedy where he experienced some measure of audience approval of his fledgling craft.

1980s – 1990s

In 1981, as a student of Marjorie Shepheard[5], he graduated as a Licentiate of Trinity College, London – with a vocal performance specialization. He immediately commenced his preparation for The Royal Schools of Music where he later also graduated as a Licentiate. He knew that as a baritone, he was still too young to seriously compete with older classical baritones, so he commenced working with pianist Grahame MacKay, singing lounge bar repertoire in 5-star hotels. With MacKay, he did night shows in the lounges of Rydges, The Hotel Intercontinental and The Ritz Carlton, where he was later employed as artistic director.

In 1983, he finished his training at the Australasian Academy of Music Theatre, based in Sydney Opera House. During his time there he received instruction from some of Australia’s greatest operatic performers. He considers receiving words of advice and encouragement from the late Dame Joan Sutherland (with whom he maintained ongoing correspondence) to be pivotal in his performing career. He also enjoyed a long friendship with the highly acclaimed mezzo-soprano Heather Begg, whom he also met while attending the academy. It was Begg who convinced him to give singing lessons.

In 1984, following the advice of Begg, he opened a singing studio in the center of the city. As he was becoming quite well-known as a concert artist, he soon had a full roster of students, many of whom have continued on into solid careers in Europe, USA and Asia. Not all of his students were singing classical. As he himself had spent several years singing the lounge repertoire, it was not difficult for him to instruct and demonstrate in all genres. He was often in front of the microphone, largely for broadcast and the 5-star shows, and he was able to give useful instruction in recording studio procedure and microphone technique – to the end that a large number of his students became professional recording artists themselves.

For several years he honed his skills as a soloist singing largely oratorio, Lieder and art songs. He gave many performances of Handel’s Messiah, The St. Matthew Passion (Bach), Olivet to Calvary (Maunder), the Mozart Requiem and numerous others, and he included song-cycles and art songs in many of his concerts. During this time he had commenced coaching with the late Jack Metz – formerly of The Metropolitan Opera, New York. It was with Metz that he studied the operatic repertoire, and he acquired many of the skills which classical singers require to routinely perform their job.

In 1987 he applied for the position of Artistic Director of the City of Sydney Ensemble, the city’s only official, and pre-eminent, vocal performance ensemble and in the same year the Ensemble commenced giving concerts to the people of Sydney at the prestigious Sydney Town Hall [6], the spiritual home of classical music in Australia. He particularly enjoyed performing there for recordings and broadcasts because of the fine acoustic. In 1988 the ensemble was appointed to deliver the official Australian Bicentennial Opera Recital Series, with Davies as principal baritone and Artistic Director. With various line-ups of singers, the ensemble gave many performances of operatic excerpts throughout the nation. The ensemble continued its annual Gala Performances for the people of Sydney well into the nineties.

In 1989, composer Christopher Leechman composed a lengthy song-cycle for Davies’ voice based on the Shakespearian sonnets which deal with the subject of ‘Time’. This received its debut at Sydney Town Hall in 1991, but with Davies conducting, the vocal content being allocated to various other singers.

The early nineties were largely spent giving concerts, and vocal instruction. However, he became very interested in an emerging new form of recording – MP3 format. Believing that this format had a chance of becoming very significant in the global music industry, he created what is thought to be the first MP3 dedicated format classical recording – the Verdi Requiem – in 1996 (see next paragraph). The first real time MP3 audio player, WinPlay3, was released on September 9, 1995, and on September 23, 1996, Audio Highway announced the release of the first MP3 player – the Listen Up player[7]. Davies was level with the field in his view of the new technology, as it was not until 1999 that truly portable, user friendly portable MP3 players started to appear.

Also during the early 90s, he started working with a new vocal coach, European conductor, Brian Stanborough[8] and this led to a very full season in 1996 during which Davies sang opposite French and Italian operatic Diva, Francoise Garner in Bellini’s Norma, the Verdi Requiem and an overseas concert tour. He became more involved with production as well, and produced the worldwide premier of Proctor’s Concerto for Tuba. He also produced Pergolesi’s Stabat Mater.

In 1997, at the request of the Sisters of Saint Joseph, he composed the celebratory music for the impending canonization of The Blessed Mary MacKillop. He based this 80-minute, through-sung work on a series of 12 short melodies which he received in plainsong form from the Sisters. The melodies were composed by Dom. Stephen Moreno many years earlier and presented to the Order to be included in their daily devotion. Davies undertook this commission philanthropically, and later received personal acknowledgement from Pope John Paul !! for his contribution to sacred music. Saint Mary MacKillop was canonized on October 17, 2010[9].

In 1998, having given a very large number of concerts and recorded many voices, he embarked on a project to restore the voice of the great Italian tenor, Enrico Caruso to it’s original form as it would have been heard on the stage. This involved Davies in a great number of experiments with soft wear algorithms. By 2001, he still had not come up with a result that he considered valid. His goal was not to add to what Caruso had sung. It was to retrospectively compensate for inadequacies of technology throughout history which had resulted in nothing but poor reproductions of Caruso’s performances. He designed revolutionary new ways to apply various algorithms to the original sounds of Caruso, and while meeting with certain successes, he found that the programs which existed were not up to the task of returning Caruso to the stage – at least with any validity. He continued working on the soft wear, and late in 2009, after many experiments which he saw as failures, he set up a new experiment with his engineering colleague, Daniel Golightly. Davies worked with Golightly as he considered him to be one of the true musical geniuses of the recording world. Davies had worked out how to manipulate some thus far unexplained algorithms and apply them to the human voice via some new soft wear which Golightly had recently acquired at his workshop. Finally, after eleven years, with the tap of an ‘enter’ key, Davies and Golightly heard the voice of Caruso as it was heard by live audiences of the very early 20th century. The Caruso project is still a work in progress and the results are not available at this time.

2000 – 2009

Early in 2000, he was selected by The Shanghai Broadcasting Network – SBN[10] to be the male representative of Western classical music in the Cross Year 2000 program. It was an innovative concert which saw him performing live on stage at the Sydney Opera House while being accompanied by an orchestra which was playing onstage at Shanghai Grand Theatre. In one song, he sang opposite Wei Wei, China’s biggest pop star at the time. His voice was described in the Chinese press as “an awesome vocal force of powerful and unstoppable momentum”[11]. Also in that year, he was elected as his community representative to run with the Olympic Torch on the opening day of the Year 2000 Olympic Games. With that, he became the first opera singer in history to be an Olympic Torchbearer[12].

In 2002, Davies and Kazaa.com commenced negotiations for some of his recordings to be made available online. Late in 2003, he became the first classical musician to have his recordings readily available over the internet. It was the fledgling days of music on the net and the notion had yet to be fully tested. Heavy metal band Metallica sued Napster when the band discovered that a demo of their song “I Disappear” had been circulating over the net, before it had been released[13]. Davies had foreseen this problem and released material which he considered to be non-commercial. The results of having such a wide audience were, in his opinion, astounding, especially in view of the material’s non-saleability in the normal market place.

In 2003, he commenced a lengthy project to record the student singers textbook “24 Italian Songs and Arias of the 17th and 18th Centuries” (Schirmer – 1894). The collection has been used in music schools and singing studios the world over as the standard collection of songs, the complete mastery of which will lead to very sound vocal technique as well as highly developed musical artistry. Several artists over time had recorded various songs from the collection, but none of the recordings of them was faithful to the score as given in the Schirmer publication. Davies project was to record the entire collection faithful to the scores. The Schirmer publication is for voice and piano, but Davies’ idea was to record the collection with instrumentations typical of the 17th and 18th centuries. He undertook the lengthy task of re-arranging the piano scores for orchestral instruments. In 2006, he recorded the entire collection at a live concert in Europe. This recording is available at a large number of online retailers including iTunes and Amazon.

In 2007/8 he made backing tracks (instrumentals without voice) of the collection available at online stores in both high and low keys so students world wide could download accompaniments for songs which they are required to learn for their singing lessons.

In 2009, Davies was granted permanent residency of the USA, and consequently re-located to Los Angeles.

2010s

In 2010, Davies commenced an ongoing philanthropic program for singing students in Los Angeles. He gave master classes in performance to young singers, many of whom came from under-serviced backgrounds which precluded them from being able to realize their ambitions to be professional performers. While conducting the Summer Schools at the prestige Colburn School in downtown Los Angeles, Davies and his associate, Golightly conducted numerous trials of a light, portable, off-site recording system, which would record as easily in the Amazon Basin as it would in a concert hall. Most of the trials of this system were considered by Davies and Golightly to be failures, due largely to the inclusion of untested technologies in a new system environment. They had managed to record extremely high integrity sound, but only for short periods. However, by 2011, they had developed a completely reliable, light-weight (at approx 5 kilograms or 11 pounds), portable system which is not Firwire dependant. This system is about the size of two laptop computers and includes a massive array of post-production capabilities.

In 2011, Davies was diagnosed with prostate cancer, and he underwent radical surgery in an attempt to cure it, at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. He had been thinking about the whole ‘cure for cancer’ question for some fifteen years or so, and believed that there may be a cure for cancer of all types, that was neither toxic nor injurious to patients. He had heard of various compounds which according to anecdote and urban myth, seemed to destroy cancer cells. None of them had ever been tested on humans. Upon diagnosis, Davies immediately decided to conduct an experiment of various compounds of his own devising on himself. He was unable to run the experiment right through to the time of surgery, as he felt there was a significant risk of so altering the blood coagulant that surgery may have proved fatal. The experiment lasted for seven weeks only, but during that time, he reduced the level of prostate specific antigen by 39.06%. However, his interpretation of that data was that his compounds may only have been masking the enzyme in some way and his experiment had technically failed. However, pathology revealed that during the seven weeks of the experiment the tumour had undergone ‘mild involution’, in other words, it had started to shrink. Davies did not expect that result, neither did his doctors, as it indicated that further clinical trials of his compounds may lead to a cure for cancer.

In 2012, Davies entered into a co-venture agreement with Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, with the aim of philanthropically funding major research projects in the areas of prostate cancer and radiation oncology for a minimum period of three years.

Recordings

* Figaro, Toreador and the Other Usual Suspects – Operatic Arias for Dramatic Baritone (current project)
* Verdi Requiem (digitally re-mastered from original tapes) imminent release 2011
* 24 Italian Songs and Arias of the 17th and 18th Centuries – high keys backing tracks
* 24 Italian Songs and Arias of the 17th and 18th Centuries – low keys backing tracks
* 24 Italian Songs and Arias of the 17th and 18th Centuries – live concert
* Norma – Bellini, excerpts
* Stabat Mater – Pergolesi (producer)
* Concerto for Tuba – Proctor (producer)
* Requiem – Mozart
* Verdi Requiem – MP3 dedicated format

As Producer/Vocals Producer

Mark Gardner/Your Favourite Hymns
Paige Delancey/Misty
Sam Swan / Drivin’ My Car
Talitha Mitchell / Talitha’s Mix
Fi Telford / Unity
Sharan Stewart / When I Fall
Jimmy Vargas and the Black Dahlias / El Torchtura

Writings

“Australian Defence Force – Trade Manual for Singing, ADF Music Corps” 2009 – 2010.
“Theory of Simultaneous Communication and Psi Effect via an Unknown State of Matter which may Exist at Temperatures Approaching Absolute Zero” – 1997 – 2002. Indep.
“First Aesthetic Theory – an Interpolation of Certain Elements of the Mandelbrot Set into the Human Creative Process and the Significance Thereof” – 1999 – 2001. Indep.
“Cantus Mariae” Celebratory Music for the Canonization of The Blessed Mary MacKillop” 1997 – 1999
“Potential Differentiation – a Mathematical Model of Playext Analysis” – 1993 – USyd; revised 1998 – Indep.
“Common Causes of Functional and Organic Disorders of the Voice in Adolescents” 1993 – USyd.
“Performance Practices of the Kwaio and Laulasi Peoples of Langu Langu Lagoon” 1993 – USyd; USP
“Social Iconicity of the Central Javanese Wayang Performance – An examination of missing elements of current iconic analysis” 1993 – USyd.
“Cannibalism and the Land Dayaks of Kalimantan” 1976 – STC/USyd.

Short list of Davies’ awards

2011 – Los Angeles Award (US Commerce Association) “Opera Singer and Vocal Coach of the Year”
2010 – Omni Foundation, Los Angeles – Classical Music Award
2010 – AUSD – “Beyond the Bell Program” – Certificate of Appreciation
2003 – International Musician of the Year, IBC Cambridge, UK. presented by Prime Minister of Australia, John Howard.
2002 – Listed in publication, “2000 Outstanding Musicians of the 20th Century, Melrose, 2002 – ISBN 9780948875298
2000 – Olympic Torchbearer Medallion
2000 – Appointed “Voice of the Western World” – Peoples Republic of China
1988 – Australian bicentennial Gold Medallion

Graduate degrees from Royal Schools of Music, Trinity College, London and University of Sydney.

References

1. 2000 Outstanding Musicians of the Twentieth Century, Melrose, 2002 – ISBN 9780948875298
2. Australian Performance Magazine – 968 – ISSN 1328 – 4231
3. Australian Performance Magazine – 969 – ISSN 1328 – 4231
4. www.carillon.org.au/history
5. www.aicsa.org.au/aicsapedia/SIV1982
6. http://www.cityofsydney.nsw.gov.au/sydneytownhall/
7. Audio Highway news release, Sept. 23, 1996
8.http://www.brian-stanborough.eu/joomla1.5/index.php?option=com_content&view=category&layout=blog&id=8&Itemid=12&lang=en&limitstart=1
 9. Australia Times. 17 October 2010.
10. 我们编译的资料
11. Shin Bou – 13 February, 2000
12. The Sydney 2000 Olympic Games, Ladybird, 2000 ISBN 9780721421780
13. http://music.napster.com/john-davies-music/albums/12033355
14. Schirmers Library of Musical Classics Vol. 1723
15. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Napster

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